Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Doctor Who Doesn’t Wear Glasses… (that one, is he a doctor?)

In the Diagnostic Radiology department of a supposed five-star hospital in Nigeria is where I work, I am that kind of doctor patients in this part of the world call ‘scan doctor’. Yes. Here, we are the scan doctors because everything from x-ray to ultrasonography is a scan! And by the way, because of paucity of functional equipment in our department, ultrasound scan is the commonest investigation we do. So, our patients are not wrong after all when they call us ‘scan doctors’.

Some of them believe we are ‘seers’, and they are doomed if we can’t ‘see’ what is wrong with them! And of course, many would want a round of consultation with us after an ultrasound scan session. They just want to give us their clinical history, and have us add or remove from what their clinicians have done for them. In a way, we are their ‘doctors of last resort’.

I don’t know how they feel when we tell them, as we commonly do, ‘take the report to your doctor, he is in a better position to advise you on the next steps to take towards your healing’. I guess it hurts. However, that is not the story.

On a good morning in Radiology Department, most of the seats in the reception area are occupied before we come to work. You don’t expect me to admit here that we come late to work. Of course, we get paid late, and sometimes we are paid half of half-of-our-salaries, but I shouldn’t spoil this story with that!

This story must be told properly…

We like to start each day with obstetric scan; the good news first – the tumours, organ failures and mysteries can come later!
It’s amazing how much happiness the fetal heart sound or the grey scale image of the baby in the womb brings to the hormone-laden face of an expectant mother! And it’s not only the mother that gets to be happy. Happiness is contagious to those who are immunized against jealousy. In contrast, when we can’t find the fetal heart, we like to pass the ball to the attending clinicians to break the bad news. We cannot now, now come here and go and explain what we don’t know. When the fetal lie is abnormal especially in late pregnancy, or there is a condition that may complicate pregnancy/delivery, we try our best to prime the mother to be open to, and comply with the delivery options the clinicians may offer her.

That was exactly what we did for this dark inquisitive woman with dishevelled hair (or was that a wig?) on the couch, who talked throughout her examination. She raised new concerns as we painstakingly reassured about the last one.  It was back-to-back torrential hit of questions, but the morning was fresh, and we (three of us in white coats in ultrasound suite 1) were predominantly in good mood, not thinking about the other half of half-of-our-salaries that has MMMed. Sorry, if that was confusing…

Just when we thought our patient had been sufficiently reassured, she asked: ‘Doctor, don’t be offended o. Will you write everything you have seen or do you need to call the doctor on phone to explain to him?’

None of us provided an answer readily; I guess because we didn’t know where she was driving to. She explained.
‘I’m asking because that doctor doesn’t wear glasses o… I don’t know if he will understand.’

Ok. Wait.

Of the three of us in white coats in that suite, I was the only one not wearing glasses. I mean, in this patient’s books, I’m in the same category of doctors who ‘won’t understand’ because they aren’t bespectacled.

I know doctors who wear glasses look more intelligent, but I didn’t know people take that cliché literally!

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